Monday, November 26, 2007

John Ireland: The BrooWaha Interview

Los Angeles Laker's Broadcaster John Ireland has a conversation with writer Bill Friday.

Bill Friday: So John, let's start with a Lightning Round... Karl Dorrell or Bob Toledo?

John Ireland: Toledo. He made the games fun to watch, even the losses.

Friday: "Family Guy" or "The Simpsons".

Ireland: Simpsons, but it's close.

Friday: Jackie Johnson or Vera Jimenez?

Ireland: They're both stunningly attractive, and really cool. It's like asking Catherine Zeta-Jones or Reese Witherspoon...can you go wrong either way? Since I hate when people duck questions, I'll say Vera. I'm married to a brunette and I'll get in less trouble.

Friday: How many jobs have you had in broadcasting?

Ireland: Six radio and four TV, for a total of ten. After leaving UCLA in '85, I started in Monroe, Louisiana; then Beaumont, TX; then San Diego; and now LA.

Friday: How many times have you been fired?

Ireland: Never in TV, twice now in radio, but it's interesting how they spin it. In each radio instance, they announced that "my contract expired, and they chose not to renew it." I always think that's just a fancy way of firing somebody. I guess it depends on how you look at things. To me, the Yankees fired Joe Torre, but they made a big deal out of saying they just chose "not to renew him." I know some people buy that stuff, but I've never been one.

Friday: Earlier this month, you and ESPN Radio "parted company". Do you ever get used to that part of the job?

Ireland: When you've been in this business as long as I have (23 years now), you know going in that these jobs don't last. Either you'll leave for a better gig, or they'll roll the dice with somebody else. I feel lucky that I've always been able to juggle multiple jobs at once, so if one goes away, I have something else to fall back on. So to answer your question, I'm not only used to it, I'm at the point now where I prepare for it in advance.

Friday: Have you talked with Michonski (am I spelling that right?) since it happened?

Ireland: I think it's more like Machonski, but I'm not even sure how to spell it - that's (former radio partner Steve) Mason's real name. We have talked, but not a lot. The station broke us up, we didn't do it to each other, so that's a weird dynamic. The fact is that they gave up on the show when they pulled us out of afternoon drive.

Friday: Are you having "radio withdrawls" yet?

Ireland: No....but I haven't had time to. I've had two different Lakers' road trips since the station blew us up. I was in San Antonio and Houston last week, and have games in Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Boston this week. As I write this, the Lakers are 7-3, so I get a lot of calls to go on radio shows to talk about that. Plus, my TV job is more work than ever before. I not only work on the news, the pre and post game shows and the Lakers' games...but they have me doing stuff for the website every day. My guess is that after the basketball season, I might.

Friday: What's the best interview - radio or TV - that you've ever done?

Ireland: Right before he died, former LA Times legend Jim Murray came in studio with us to talk about his life. For a guy like me who grew up reading him, it was really cool. He was just one of those guys who had the history of this city all in his head. He stayed with us for an hour, and we replayed it three times that year. That's the one that stands out.

Friday: What's the worst (remember, this one's "print", so it doesn't count)?

Ireland: The two worst interviewees we ever had were former Bulls GM Jerry Krause, and Bill Belichick, when he was the coach of the Browns. Both guys just had no charisma at all....none. We made fun of those guys for years afterwards. I always wondered why they even agreed to come on.

Friday: You cover the Lakers for KCAL 9. Were you present when Phil made his "controversial" comments after the loss to the Spurs?

Ireland: I'm the one who asked him about that. I said something like, "why are you guys leaving so many shooters wide open at the three-point line? Is that because you allow too much penetration?" And then he dropped the Brokeback Mountain reference. I thought it was funny, and I thought the apology afterwards was even funnier than that. I wrote about it on my blog,, and heard from all sorts of viewers. Even the gay viewers thought it was funny. I got hundreds of e-mails about it, and only two people seemed offended. I have a lot of gay friends, and most told me that they have a lot of bigger things to worry about than a joke about a movie. Having said that, we live in a politically-correct society. Phil was right to apologize, because if he didn't, somebody would have made a huge deal out of this. It's just the world we live in. But remember, Phil Jackson was once a hippie in New York. He's really into Zen. He's probably more tolerant of different lifestyles than to paint him as insensitive is a joke.

Friday: In the video, the gathered media's response to the comment, in the moment, seemed to be one of amusement (laughter). Given their reaction, do you think it was typical of humor around the league, or just of "jock humor" in general?

Ireland: That's part of what I was saying. I hear these kind of jokes in every locker room I'm in. To the sports media in general, this wasn't anything we've never heard before. That's why I tend to lean on my gay friends for perspective on things like this. When they tell me that this is nothing, I tend to shape my opinions around that.

Friday: Given the NBA's almost "non-reaction" to what Phil said, what do you think the Commissioner's Office saw in it?

Ireland: I know that the the public reaction was ESPN driven. The network called the Lakers and told the team that they were going to cover the story, with reaction from gay activists. Once the network played that card, the league had to react the way they did. Any PR executive knows that they had to denounce the comments, it was the only smart play.

Friday: One particular L.A. sports station makes a very big deal over its programing being "So L.A., it's in the name." Yet it's two biggest shows (Dan Patrick and Jim Rome) are, or are in the process of being, syndicated nationally - essentially ignoring L.A. sports. That being said, as far as "local sports talk" in L.A. is concerned, does L.A. really even care?

Ireland: KLAC (which is the station you're referring to) is competing with ESPN, so that's the smart way to market this. Remember, Rome does his show from LA...and their overnight programming comes from Fox Sports Radio in the valley, so the only non-local programming the station has is Patrick. ESPN carries several hours a day (including 10 straight hours) from Bristol, so that's a position that KLAC can attack. In my opinion, sports radio will always have a niche, as long as the shows are good. LA cares, and if the stations provide good sports talk, it will show in the ratings.

Friday: Since this interview will run in San Francisco as well as L.A., so I have to ask... The question of Barry Bonds indictment on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Given the current climate in baseball, in five years, will it still be important to anyone?

Ireland: This is just the tip of the iceberg. When the Mitchell Report comes out, this story will be much bigger than Barry Bonds. Hopefully, in five years, they'll have a testing program like the Olympics, and the story will die. Until then, Bonds gets all of the attention.

Friday: Speaking of five years, in five years, which has the greatest impact on L.A. Frank McCourt's Dodgers or Arte Moreno's Angels?

Ireland: Moreno. The Dodgers have a rich history and even if they don't do anything over the next five years, they can still live off of their history. The Angels are just starting their history under Moreno, and seem willing to do whatever it takes to make a splash. By the way, this isn't a bad thing. The Dodgers own the region now, but if the Angels start winning titles and grow their following, it will be really fun to watch, and to cover.

Friday: How about you? Where are you in five years?

Ireland: That's hard to say. Five years ago, in 2002, I was working at KCAL, traveling with the Lakers, hosting two weekend shows on the Fox Sports Radio network, and working as the host and sideline reporter for UCLA football at what was then, 1150. Five years later, CBS has merged with KCAL, I left Fox for ESPN radio, and now I'm leaving ESPN. 1150 has become 570. Everything changes, almost yearly. I'll have opportunities, and I just need to make sure that I make the right choices and go with the right people.

Friday: Your job at KCAL has you away from home as much as the team you cover. How difficult is life on the road with the Lakers?

Ireland: The travel can be tiring, but truth be told, life on the road couldn't be better. We fly on private planes, into private airports. We stay in great hotels. I've always felt like I'm being paid to see the country, with a first-class seat. Put all of that together with the fact that I'm covering the team that I grew up rooting for, and I would have trouble using the word difficult, in any context. Anybody who complains about a set-up like that is an idiot.

Friday: John Ireland, thank you for making time to talk with me for BrooWaha.

Ireland: Thanks for having me.

John Ireland can be seen on the sidelines for Lakers games broadcast on KCAL 9, as well as anchoring the sports desk for KCAL and KCBS 2. To decide for yourself regarding the Jackie Johnson vs. Vera Jimenez question, go to (Vera), and (Jackie).

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Monday, November 19, 2007

"I Am Legend" - The BrooWaha Book Review

In anticipation of the upcoming release of the third film version of Richard Matheson's classic novel, I Am Legend, this time starring Will Smith, Bill Friday reviews the book.

Richard Matheson is legend.

And his ground breaking first novel I Am Legend started it all.

Matheson, perhaps best remembered as one of the principal writers for creator Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone in the early 1960's, was already a seasoned writer of short fiction when I Am Legend was published in 1954. And almost all works of post-apocalyptic fiction since then pay tribute, in one way or another, to Matheson's vision of vampires in Los Angeles.

Set in the future of 1976, Robert Neville is nobody special. Just a factory worker living in the L.A. suburb of Gardena, Nevile spends most of his days pillaging supplies from empty stores or doing the occasional repair job on his home - at least on the days he isn't hunting the undead. At night, Robert Neville is a prisoner by his own design, holed up in the fortress that had been home for him, his wife, and young daughter, before the mysterious plague killed everyone, and Neville was left as the last man on Earth.

Part action adventure, part psychological thought piece, I Am Legend rises to more than just a work of genre fiction. The character of Robert Neville is used to show readers just what each of us truly is, at the core of our being - the best and the worst of humanity all rolled into one very human character. In the end, Robert Neville has risen above what he was before the plague took it all away. His discoveries, both scientific and philosophical, show him to be much more than a mere factory worker (an interesting metaphor in a book that presents the failed idea of forced collectivism on unwitting classes of a new society). Ultimately, it is Neville, the novel's hero, who becomes the scourge of this new society. And as new societies go, this one isn't any different than others that have gone before. Neville is different, and different is dangerous. Dangerous to the population. Dangerous to the status quo. Dangerous to their future.

In the end, it is Robert Neville who assumes the role of "boogie man" in this new world. As vampires had been humanity's worst nightmare, now it is just a man - a man who has become legend.

No spoilers here for those who want to experience this work for yourselves before the movie hits theaters December 14th. You can find the screenplay on line in a couple of places, though I can't verify if they are the final shooting script or not. Read them at your own risk.

In the Tor edition of the book I purchased, 10 other works by Richard Matheson were added to the novel, including the legendary short story, Prey (remember the Zuni fetish doll who went by the name "He Who Kills"), which Matheson turned into one of three teleplays that comprised the script for one of the all-time television classics, Trilogy Of Terror, starring Karen Black. The collection of shorts reminded me of the 1980's Stephen King compendium, Night Shift. In fact, SK offers his thanks to Matheson on the back cover of the paperback this way: "Books like I Am Legend were an inspiration to me."

Many of Richard Matheson's stories are imprinted on the consciousness of the television generation of the 60's and 70's through other writings such as Duel (a short-turned-teleplay, directed by first-time director Steven Spielberg), as well as the scripts for the original The Night Stalker movies (the first, watched by 75 million viewers) starring Darren McGavin, and other novels that would become the films, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Legend Of Hell House, Somewhere In Time with Christopher Reeve, and What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams and Stir Of Echoes with Kevin Bacon.

And what about the writer?

Still alive at the age of 81, Richard Matheson lives in California, where he is still legend.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Cavemen: T.V. Armageddon

Television Armageddon is now scheduled for Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. (7:00 Central Time). Beginning tonight, with the premier of ABC's Cavemen, the end of T.V. as we know it will be upon us.

"Cavemen has a lot of people talking since it was first announced. People will continue to talk… about just how astoundingly awful it is".

Blogger comments such as these are just the beginning of the backlash against the program, known mostly for being the show that knocked George Lopez off the air. It was just last May that Lopez, the stand-up comic turned sit-com icon, blew a gasket in an interview with the Los Angeles Times when he said, "I get kicked out for a...caveman and shows that I out-performed because I'm not owned by [ABC Television Studios]...So a...Chicano can't be on TV but a...caveman can?"

Lopez went on to say, "You know when you get in this that shows do not last forever, but this was an important show and to go unceremoniously like this hurts. One hundred seventy people lost their jobs".

However, others, even within the same industry, had differing opinions of Lopez and his comments. Take, for example, lines from an episode of the FOX animated comedy, Family Guy.

Meg: "Chris, change the channel. I want to watch George Lopez."

Chris: "That show just furthers the stereotype that George Lopez is funny."

Now THAT'S funny.

And, as far as sneak-peak reviews are concerned, nothing about Cavemen is.

"This pilot is slow, talky and dull… with the only real visual flourishes revolving around the Cavemen donning different costumes throughout the show in their bid to fit in.

"One of (the actors) actually reminded me a little bit of Sanjaya.

And finally.

"This video will get passed around like the infamous “Star Wars Christmas Special.” It’s nice to know that the spirit of Ed Wood lives on."

Back in the early '70s, comedian Tim Conway had a vanity licence plate that read, "13 WEEKS". He said at the time that it stood for the number of weeks a show he was involved with would run before the network pulled the plug.

If there was a line in Vegas for how many weeks Cavemen will last before George Lopez can dance on it's Neanderthal Burial Grounds, it wouldn't be 13 weeks.

Cavemen's run may be one for the books. The history, err... prehistory books. For those of us with TiVo this might be our only chance to make a memory (fossil?) of one of television's greatest moments.

After all, Armageddon only comes along so many times.

Portions of this story originally appeared in, Ain't It Cool News and The Los Angeles Times

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Monday, October 1, 2007

Dodgers' Season Ends As Angels' Season Begins

Today, at 4:32 p.m., the Los Angeles Dodgers' season came to an end.

Six months and 162 games. Every year the same for every team. Batting practice, the same. Plane flights and bus rides, the same. The towns and hotels, the same. Same bats, same ball, same effort. but for some, vastly different results.

As Andy LaRoche, the third-baseman of the future, flied out, stranding left-fielder of the future Delwyn Young after outs by center-fielder of the future Matt Kemp and first-baseman of the future James Loney, in a game lost by ace-of-the-staff-of-the-future Chad Billingsley, 2007 for the Dodgers was over.

And on Wednesday, October the 3rd, the season for the Los Angeles Angels will have just begun.

In Boston, the Angels will begin the real season - the post season - while the Dodgers go golfing, or fishing, or siting on the couch playing video games, or whatever a bunch of young, twenty-something pro athletes do when they have nowhere to be until next February 15th. As recently as July 15th, the Dodgers held the best record in the National League and a one game lead in the West over the San Diego Padres. Tonight, after the season-ending 11-2 loss to San Francisco, the Dodgers end the year in 4th place, only 2 games over .500, and 8 games behind division champ Arizona.

On the other hand, after cruising to a fourth American League West title in the last five seasons, the Angels... well, that's another story for later in the week.

Expect firings, new-hirings, and loads of veteran players moving on to greener (read that long green) pastures as the L.A. team that hasn't won a World Series in 20 seasons tries to move forward with a core group of players, most of whom were not yet in kindergarten the last time the team played that late into October.

Vin Scully, sole remaining bright spot on the last day of the season, summed it up this way, "Baseball... It's designed to break your heart."

At least if you bleed Dodger Blue.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"I'd Like To Report A Missing Person..."

It was Tuesday, September 4th. I drove north on Wilcox, my destination now in sight. I found a space in front of the building and parked. It was only space left on the street. Was it fate, or just dumb luck?

For this job, I could use a little of both.

5:45 p.m. After a hard day at work the A/C inside was cool and inviting. Outside, the air was hot and wet, a lot like the pavement in a Whitesnake video featuring Tawney Kitaen. 100 degrees every day for... days, but that was another story.

1358 N. Wilcox. Hollywood Division. LAPD's Precinct of Broken Dreams. I stepped inside. A pale-legged tourist with black socks and an Iowa drivers' license sat next to a "self-employed actress" with six-inch heels and no permanent address. Even in the late-summer heat I noticed both of them were wearing wigs.

And just like the curls in their nylon hair, nothing about either of them seemed out of place.

At least not here.

I asked the one in the heels if this was where you go to file a report. She nodded like a regular. As I made my way to the window, a fat cop, dressed all in blue, sat on a stool behind bullet-proof glass, staring at me. Suddenly, I felt dirty. He was looking up me up and down like I was a... or maybe he was looking at the "actress". From where I stood, it was hard to tell.

Before I reach the counter, the fat cop spoke.

"How can I help you?"

"I'd like to report a missing person." I paused. "Make that five missing persons."

I reached into a manila folder I carried under one arm, and pulled out a list. As I slid the list under the glass, I saw the box. Pink cardboard with white paper sticking out of it. The box looked like it had been worked over good.

And the cop looked full.

"What's this?"

"They're all missing," I said.

The cop wiped his hands on a near-by napkin, then grabbed the list.

"These are... names? What kind of names are these?" He picked up a pair of reading glasses from on top of the pink box, and hung them on the end of his nose. He read the names out loud.

"V? El G? Mora Uman?"

"Oh, sorry... I'm pretty sure that's not really her in the picture." Suddenly, I felt foolish, but I pressed on. "Next to the names are the dates anybody last heard from them." I must have looked anxious. The cop looked at me as much as he did the list. He finished reading the names and looked at me over the top of his glasses, as if to make sure I meant business

"Crowbar? Vundula? Bill-Bob Bubba... Are these for real?"

"Of course they're for real!"

"What are you, some kind of private detective?

"I'm a writer."

"Figures." He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "And these are friends of yours?"

"Kinda. They're other writers."

"And they're missing?"

The cop looked at his watch. As he did, I noticed the clock on the wall behind him. It was five minutes to six. I guessed that Pink Box was almost done with his shift.

"You got anything else?"

I reached into the folder once more. I pulled out five sheets and shoved them all under the glass. Each one had the writer's profile printed on it.

"Those are the last-know whereabouts for each of them. Plus some personal information. I thought it might help."

He flipped through the pages, randomly reading from each one.

"... common-law wife named Oksana... formerly homeless with three AKAs... a bicycle named Mathilda?" He picked up the napkin again. He wiped the corners of his mouth, then tossed the napkin into a distant trash can. Probably the only excercise he ever got. Then he leaned forward... closer... as close as he could get without touching his nose on the window. As he did, he stifled a silent burp.

I thanked God for bullet-proof glass.

"This is everything?"

"Yeah." Instinctively, I pulled back. As if the smell of coffee and donuts might make it's way to my side of the window.

In one motion the cop shoved all the papers back under the glass in my direction. As he did, the clock on the wall behind him struck six.

"Then I'm afraid you're on your own."

"But they're..."

"Missing. Yeah, I got that. You seem like a bright guy Mr... uh,"

"Friday," he laughed to himself. I thought I heard him muttered the words, "Like that's your real name."

"Excuse me?"

"Mr. Friday..." He stood up to leave. "They'll turn up. They always do."

They always do... They always do...

"So what kind of story is that?"

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"What genre?"


The thirteen-year-old boy looked up from the computer screen. He shook his head. The words "gimme a break" were written all over his face.

"It's stupid."


"Because they're not really missing."

"It's a metaphor," I argued. Never argue with a thirteen-year-old.

"A metaphor for for what?"

I hesitated. A metaphor for what? "Well, they haven't written in a long time."

"Neither have you."

I thought before I spoke... this time. He had me.

"Okay. Then it's... a metaphor for my own futility as a writer?"

"So you're the one who's really missing?" Brown eyes stared back at me. My son wasn't buying any of it.

"You're right," I said. "It is stupid."

"And the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem."

"Don't you have homework to do?"

"Why? It's stupid."

He turned and headed up the stairs.

"Don't forget to say good night when you're done." And he was gone.

"I suppose I could just email them," I said to no one.

A voice answered from the other room.

"Honey, are you talking to yourself, again?"


Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Remembering Hal Fishman: Late L.A. Newsman Already Missed

Tuesday morning at 3 a.m. Hal Fishman, a secure fixture in Los Angeles television news, died at home following a brief battle with colon cancer.

For 47 years Fishman, author, pilot, teacher, who began his professional life in the academic world as a professor of political science, was a rarity; a stabilizing presence in a news market known more for weather girls and future game show hosts than for real reporting.

Beginning in 1960 as a political commentator for KCOP-TV Channel 13, and ending with a 32-year-run as the anchor of KTLA Prime News, Hal Fishman died less than one week after being hospitalized following a collapse at his home in Los Angeles.

For me, the story broke in a seemingly strange place, as a last-minute inclusion before the 8 a.m. news on sports talk radio station AM 570, KLAC, as announced by host and L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers. The usually acerbic Simers was noticeably serious, even solemn, as he relayed the news he told listeners he had just read on the local website

If you want to read more about the accomplished life of Hal Fishman, a couple of sources are,,1,7565794,print.story?c,

In the coming days, for those of us who watched him regularly, the loss of Hal Fishman, the newsman, will pale compared to what we will feel at the loss of Hal Fishman, the man. As a nightly "commentator" on one of the day's top stories, you never got the idea that the man had a partisan bone in his body. In fact, to this day, I have no idea what political affiliation, if any, that Hal Fishman held. Everyone was fair game, simply because Hal Fishman was fair. In one moment, he could be as relevant as any demographically positioned news reader in a $3,000 suit, and as comforting in the way he told a story as a most-trusted Grampa. His lack of pretense was all the cool he ever needed.

And, he had a sense of humor.

In a story that first appeared in the industry magazine Broadcasting & Cable, Fishman, the former Cal State L.A. professor remembered his first words on television on the program, American Political Parties and Politics :

"Good afternoon, I'm professor Hal Fishman, and this course is certainly quite unique for me, because it's the first course that I have ever taught where the student can turn the professor off."

At present, KTLA has no word on who will replace Hal Fishman on Prime News. And even when they do, they should probably make no announcement about his "replacement". It wouldn't do any good.

We'd probably just turn him off.

Hal Fishman leaves behind a wife, Nolie, and a son, David.

And all the rest of us, too.

Hal Fishman was 75 years old.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Booooooo! Barry Bonds Rolls Into Los Angeles

If a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one there, does it make a sound?

If Barry Bonds breaks Henry Aaron's home run record at Dodger Stadium, and 56,000 people are there, booing their guts out...

Tonight, in the middle of Chavez Ravine, San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds will face Brad Penny of the Dodgers in the top of the first inning of a game that could go down in history - not just baseball history, HISTORY - as a defining moment for the sport, for Los Angeles as a city, and for the United States for that matter. More than the story of how a cheater (allegedly) broke the most hallowed record in a game that measures it's history by the numbers, tonight marks the moment when a game's fans, L.A., and the U.S. will show how it feels.

How it feels about Bonds.

How it feels about the game.

How it feels about itself.

What will those 56,000 people do if Barry Bonds makes history in their back yard?

For the Dodgers as an organization, no special ceremony is planned in the eventuality that Bonds hits number 755 to tie Aaron, or 756 to pass him over the next three games in L.A. Why should they? The Dodgers and the Giants have been the bitterest of rivals for more than a century. There will never be any love lost between the two. Major League Baseball has no official plan to make with the speeches yet either. Only a possibility of that exists should Bonds break the record later on in San Francisco, and then only a faint "maybe" for even having Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig make an appearance at an event neither he, nor Selig's long-time friend Hank Aaron desire to be "photo-opped" at.

This leaves only Bonds' teammates and the ticket-holders to determine how this moment in history will be remembered.

Los Angeles has had it's share of defining moments before the watching world. 1968, and the Watts Riots. The beating of truck driver Reginald Denny and the subsequent L.A. Riots in the wake of the Rodney King verdict in 1992. Even what, by comparison, seems meaningless - the burning of an LAPD cruiser after the Lakers' first championship of the Shaq/Kobe era - may become lost in the memory of tonight, of Wednesday, or Thursday, depending what 56,000 people do if...

Does America hate Barry Bonds? Pretty much. And for nothing more than a perception that he has somehow tainted the game that he loves by taking unfair advantage of science in his pursuit of immortality. That, and the belief that Bonds is a class-a a-hole when it comes to his dealings with media, team mates, fans, ex-wives, mistresses, best friends, and personal trainers spending years in prison because they refused to testify about Bonds' alleged steroid use before a Grand Jury.

Is the hatred of Bonds, as some suggest, racial in it's motivation? Hard to say. In part? Probably. Exclusively? Doubtful. Will the fans' reaction to the events of the next few days have more to do with the former than the latter? Definitely.

But how, if the place goes grease fire and the worst of all possible scenarios plays itself out before millions on world-wide TV, will it be recalled by future generations when they look back with wonder?

Los Angeles, what will you do?

Will you make a martyr out of a man who is worthy, neither of your hatred or your worship, simply by how you react to the way a ball flies through the air in your town? Can you be trusted to boo without having to be strip-searched on your way into the ballpark?

How will the world remember?

Game time is at 7:10.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter, Or A Good Night's Sleep?

Tuesday, July 10th, 11:59 p.m.

The question wasn't if I was going to get in line for the next instalment of the obnoxiously successful Harry Potter and the Whatever Movie is Next... series. It was only a matter of when. I have a thirteen-year-old who lives on this planet. It's Death, Taxes and Get-in-line-for Harry Potter and the Whatever Movie is Next...

A better question would be, "Which line am I willing to stand in the longest?"

I've never been one to stand in lines. I always believed the DMV has chairs there specifically for me. Amusement parks, with their one-and-a-half hour waits in line for a one-and-a-half minute payoff, has never been that hot a ticket for me. Given a choice, I'd be eating fried chicken in New Orleans Square, not standing in the burning sun in anticipation of another go-round of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

The same with movies. Movies come and go, and lines of movie-goers come and go with them. And standing around for hours on opening night with a bunch of strangers who already know the ending of the movie, while I lose sleep on a work night, is not my idea (maybe my kid's idea, but not my idea) of a great time. And drinking cold coffee from the Starbucks on the other side of the Promenade just to stay awake long enough to fall asleep in a Lazy-Boy theater seat with the stub of a $12 ticket tucked in my shirt pocket (for the buy one-get one bowling coupon at the Gable House) loses something in translation between the age of thirteen and... old.

So, which line will I to stand in?

This one.

After I spend several leisurely hours browsing through the 30 or so books I've always wanted to read, then relax at a cafe table, enjoying a spinach-mushroom Strada while sipping a really, really big iced coffee, I stand in a line of another kind.

Friday, July 20th, 11:59 p.m. Inside Barnes and Noble Booksellers, People, faces familiar to each other, gather together, probably for the last time.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the 7th and last book in the series authored by J.K. Rowling (not some junior screenwriter who would "really like to direct some day"), will be released to the reading public as the clock strikes midnight. This night, hundreds of fans, readers, will be the first of hundreds of thousands who, at the stroke of midnight, will receive their copy of the final installment of a story that, to date, has sold over 86 million copies.

Barnes and Noble, as well as Borders stores, Vroman's in Pasadena and a host of smaller, local bookstores, will host events on the night when the whole world finds out what fate awaits Harry.

Here is a short list of L.A. locations offering some kind of Harry Potter activities.

Skylight Books will let you make your own Book 7 book cover, and offers an all-night reading party that goes till 9 a.m. Saturday. 10 p.m., 1818 N. Vermont Ave., L.A. (323) 660-1175.

At Borders Torrance, the Grand Hallows Ball will include a life-size Harry Potter checkers game and a 15-foot snake cake. 9:30 p.m., 3700 Torrance Blvd., Torrance. (310) 540-7000.

Other Borders stores in the area will be holding similar but smaller Grand Hallows Balls at 9:30 p.m., including a Harry Potter spelling bee and the "Great Snape Debate".

Book Soup is giving away copies of the book with the purchase of a $100 gift card. 10 p.m., 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110.

Storyopolis is holding a Diagon Alley Party and games till the late, as well as an autographed print by Mary GrandPré, the books' illustrator. 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., 12348 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (818) 509-5600.

At Barnes & Noble stores there will be events from 6 to 10 p.m. These Midnight Magic parties include photos with a Harry look-alike, magic shows, and trivia scavenger hunts. Use the store locator at

At Vroman's, bands Wild Youth and Dirty Spanglish will perform, in addition to storytelling, crafts and face painting. 10 p.m., 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 449-5320.

Any of those lines are worth giving up a good night's sleep for, because reading always beats a movie, no matter how much stuff gets blown up. Big screen, summer blockbusters are often little more than over-long video games, or music videos with 100-page scripts written by the same junior screenwriter who "would really like to direct someday". And for an event that promotes literature for my thirteen-year-old, video-addicted son, well... I would drag him to that.

If I had to.

My son's plans for the weekend involve locking himself in his room and finishing Deathly Hallows before he walks face first into a spoiler before finishing the book.

Besides, a book like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would sure pass the time sitting in one of those chairs at the DMV.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Friday, July 13, 2007

Philadelphia Phillies Celebrate Phailure

10,000 losses.

Let that number sink in. Even for the hard-core sports fan, the phrase ten-thousand losses takes a little time to register in their consciousness. To the more casual fan, the words are a part of the ethereal. Vague. Just a big, round number symbolizing a futility beyond measure.

Ten-thousand losses.

To the non-initiate, the number is without meaning, on par with how many under-weight cows there are in India or the atomic weight of Boron.

The atomic weight of Boron is 10.81 and all cows are under-weight in India.

But baseball hallows numbers. And for the fan - the true fan, the idea of a Major League team losing ten-thousand games is like living in the moment of history. It becomes the, "I remember where I was when..." of the oldest American game.

The Philadelphia Phillies, formed in 1873, are the losing-est professional baseball team in history. Their generational ineptitude is legendary. And tonight, when the Phillies take the field, they do so with the chance to become the quantifiable worst team in sports history.

9,999 and counting.

That's what it says on the website

Dedicated to the glory of Phillie futility through the ages, Celebrate 10,000 offers Phillies apparel, as well as insight into what it means to be a true fan of the biggest loser baseball has ever known. Articles, links to blogs and the ever-present reminder that, "Real Phans Love Their Losers". The site is worth a look if for nothing more than to see how a city that has the reputation for being hardest on athletes than any other (booing Santa Clause, sending death threats to Phillies all-time home run leader Mike Schmidt, even cheering when Dallas Cowboy's wide receiver Michael Irvin was taken from the field in cervical restraints after breaking his neck in a game against the Eagles) has taken up the mantle of mediocrity with seeming joy.

That, and the knowledge that even though the city is home to the piss-poorest franchise in memory, they still aren't the Chicago Cubs. After all, the Phillies one-and-only World Championship, won in 1980, is still more recent than the Cubs last World Series victory back in 1908.

And to make things a perfect as possible, the big night could come as early as tonight, as the Phillies resume play after the All-Star break with a game at home against the St. Louis Cardinals. And on Friday the 13th, no less.

Dare to dream.

So tonight, as those of us who follow this craziness turn on Sports Center, maybe everyone can remember they too can be in on history. They too can one day say, "I remember exactly where I was when I heard that the Phillies lost their 10,000th game". If you're not passed-out in your Lazy-Boy like a true Phillie Phanatic.

Baseball hallows numbers. And history is written by the winners. Which is probably why we celebrate number 10,000 like the winners the Phills have never been.

And if you're a Phillies fan, remember this baseball truth, "You're only as bad as your next loss". And nobody has more of them than you.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Cleaning Out The Notebook: Sports Stories I Never Told You

DATELINE: Los Angeles.

Long-time Los Angeles Times sports reporter Mike Penner had a problem. It's a problem many writers experience on a regular basis.

Writer's block.

"I was always a tortured soul when I wrote," the sports columnist said.

Years on the job had taken their toll. Deadlines. Distractions. Decisions. Something bigger than what Penner saw in the mirror each day was at work within him, making his chosen profession a chore, a burden. An insurmountable wall, higher, wider and deeper than he knew how to deal with. And all the while, that nagging, dragging writer's block. The bane of a journalist's existence.

So what did Mike Penner do to break through? To overcome that rock solid barrier that threatened to ruin his career?

He underwent gender reassignment.

Yep. Beneath it all, Mike Penner came to the conclusion that his writer's block was due to the fact that... he was a woman.

On April 26th, Mike Penner wrote his first column for the Times as Christine Daniels.

"I am a transsexual sportswriter," Penner/Daniels wrote.

And that pesky writer's block?

"All I can say at this point is that I am now happier, more focused and more energized when I sit behind a keyboard. The wicked writer's block that used to reach up ant torture me at some of the worst possible times imaginable has disappeared... That should come as good news to my editors: far fewer blown deadlines.",0,2709943.story?page=la-home-headlines.

When the story first broke, this reporter attempted to contact fellow Times sportswriter Lisa Dillman, who also happened to be Mike Penner's wife. In interviews with Penner/Daniels, no mention was ever made of Lisa Dillman or her thoughts on her husband's transition. To date, I have received no response from Dillman.

Too bad. Every good story should allow both sides as close to equal time as possible. It was reported at the time of the story that one prerequisite of any interview with Penner/Daniels was that no mention of Lisa Dillman would be made.

It would have been nice to allow both sides of an interesting story to be represented. Unfortunately, it appears that wasn't meant to be.

Well, at least that pesky writer's block has been taken care of.

DATELINE: Fort Collins, Colorado.

April 21st. The final day of spring practice for the Colorado State University Rams dawned crisp and clear. Today was the day of the Rams' Green-White intrasquad scrimmage, where all CSU fans would have an opportunity to take part in the "Spring Youth Football Festival", where supporters would even be allowed to be on the sidelines inside the Rams' stadium to view the proceedings close up.

Colorado State football fan Mike Thomas and his sons were in attendance that day, roaming the sidelines just like they belonged there.

One problem. Mike's youngest son Caden was there with the other men in the family, enjoying the day, paying only as much attention as any four-year-old is able to. With all the intensity of a late-season game, the scrimmage played out on the field. And with it the competition spilled over onto the existence of little Caden as he wandered unsupervised on the sideline.


Colorado State running back George Hill, after catching a sideline pass, ran helmet-first into the small boy, driving him backwards into the thinly-padded brick wall at the rim of the playing surface.

Following an ambulance ride to a near-by hospital, thirty stitches plus a little plastic surgery by a local doctor, and a full neurological exam, Caden was declared sound and released.

Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick gave the kid an autographed football. Mike Thomas said later that Caden would have, "a scar to rival Harry Potter."

No one as of yet has given Mike Thomas a full neurological exam to determine if he's sick in the head or just an unfit parent for bringing a child that small within 20 feet of a hand-to-hand combat zone, then leaving him unsupervised long enough to get drilled by a 200-pound, padded missile.

Of course, Mike Thomas was close enough to his son to give this eyewitness account of the incident:

"Well, there's the sickening thud. I was tremendously worried about the rest of his life. You make automatic assumptions there will be some damage when you see something that horrific."

Ya think?

Caden summed up the moment like this: "It was kind of scary cause I got bonked by the football. It kind of hurted."

And finally...

DATELINE: Fayetteville, Georgia.

June 25th became a day that will live forever in the hearts and minds of professional wrestling fans across the United States. But not for the sad, sentimental reasons that fans of the scripted, pseudo-reality sports franchise known as the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) might wish to believe. That afternoon, Fayette County Sheriffs found the bodies of wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife Nancy, and their 7-year-old son Daniel, all victims of a murder-suicide in which Benoit strangled his wife, suffocated his developmentally disabled son, and then hanged himself.

In 2003, Nancy Benoit filed for divorce and a restraining order against her husband, later changing her mind and reconciling with him.

In a press conference held the next day, Fayette County D.A. Scott Ballard described what Sheriffs' investigators believe took place in the Benoit home over the weekend just past.

Some time on Friday, June 22nd, Chris Benoit bound the hands and feet of his wife Nancy, then strangled her with a cord. Then following day, Saturday, the 240 pound Benoit then, according to investigators, put his son in a single-arm choke hold and strangled him. Finally, on Sunday, the 24th, Benoit killed himself by wrapping a cord around his own neck that was attached to a weight machine in his home gym. Benoit released a stack of weights that matched his own body weight, causing his own strangulation.

Deputies found Bibles placed next to each of the murdered family members.

Bad enough that the Benoit family is dead. Worse still are the details that surround those deaths. Details that, at first glance, seem questionable. Details that, upon further review, move right past questionable, and straight into heinous.

Hours before Sheriffs found the bodies in the Benoit home, a Wikipedia article on Benoit was updated to include news of his missing a match, scheduled at the time of the first murder, telling readers that Benoit was replaced by another wrestler. Then, on Monday, June 25th, at 12:01 a.m. EDT, an additional phrase was added to the post.

"...stemming from the death of his wife Nancy."

This update was made 14 hours, 29 minutes before investigators found the bodies. In addition to that, the IP address of the editor of the entry was traced to the town of Stamford, Connecticut, the location of the headquarter of the WWE. Since that time, police have taken computer equipment belonging to the person responsible for the posts. Police say that this "anonymous editor" could face possible criminal charges if they had any knowledge of the deaths prior to the discovery of the victims.

Oh, and one other thing.

Speculation regarding the part that anabolic steroids may have played in the emotional story of Chris Benoit led officials to investigate, and subsequently arrest, a doctor for regularly prescribing Benoit the equivalent of a 10-month supply of steroids every three to four weeks.,1,3341276.story?coll=la-headlines-sports&track+crosspromo (news video is included with this link).

All that, while Benoit continued to pass "mandatory" drug testing performed regularly under the WWE's wellness program, set up to monitor wrestlers for drug use and other health concerns.

So, my sports notebook is empty. And, cathartic as this was supposed to be for me, I think I'm going to need a little more detox from this one. I"m headed to the beach for an interview an AVP beach volleyball player. I'm reasonable sure she has never: a) been a man; b)left her child alone on the sidelines at a sporting event, or c)done steroids. It might just end up being a regular sports story.

I miss those.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Friday, June 8, 2007

"Paristurbia" Opens Today

Early this morning, after serving only five days of an originally scheduled twenty-three day sentence, Paris Hilton was released from the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood for what is being called a "medical condition".

Hilton who, as a child, lived in the world famous Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York, spent the last few days in an 8 x 12 cement and steel dwelling, isolated from the general population 23 hours a day for her own safety according to her attorney, Richard A. Hutton.

"Because of who she is, they had no choice", Hutton said on Wednesday. Following a visit by Hutton and Psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy, the "famous for being famous" Hilton's release was in the works.

On Thursday, presumably after days of crying in her cell, enduring the taunts of fellow inmates, having to be shown by a sergeant how to make collect calls on the jail's only payphone, and wearing an orange, short-sleeved jumpsuit, Paris could endure no more.

According to, Hilton's "medical condition" is not physical in nature.

"The County Jail medical staff made the final decision... based on Dr. Sophy's psychological exam." TMZ also stated that, "Sheriff Lee Baca gave the final approval."

The revelation of this psychological "medical condition" comes on the heels of Paris being quoted in the days before her incarceration as saying she would be spending her time in jail, "reflecting on her life and how to make the world better."

So, barring the overturning of the decision at a Friday, 9 a.m. hearing before Judge Michael Sauer, where Hilton and her attorney will face-off against Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo to determine if the release violates the terms of her conviction and adjudication ("no electronic monitoring"), Hilton will now spend the next 40 days under ankle bracelet house arrest.

Which brings to mind some intriguing possibilities.

With another season of her television show The Simple Life close to being dropped from the E-Network's line-up of Chelsea Handler re-runs, the opportunity now presents itself for what could be, perhaps, the most daring and insightful season The Simple Life may ever produce.

Get ready for The Simple Life: PARISTURBIA.

That's right, with Paris Hilton under house arrest, she spends long days and lonely nights spying on her mild-mannered neighbor next door. With the help of her friends Nicole Ritchie and Margaret Cho (okay, that may be stunt casting, but it's my pitch, so roll with it), Paris notices that her next-door neighbor's old Ford Mustang has a dent in it's bumper - just like a car that was seen fleeing the scene of a murder weeks before.

With the help of Nicole and Margaret, and clues provided by that Sheriff's sergeant from the jailhouse payphone leading them on, the girls overcome the skepticism of mom Kathy Hilton, the L.A. County Probation Department, and Paris' psychiatrist Dr. Sophy, to catch the bad guy (who turns out to be a reporter from

In the end, FOX decides to bring The Simple Life back to the network, due to the shows ratings that now rival 24, American Idol and the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.

It could happen.

And some day maybe Paris might even grow from this experience and one day "make the world better".

Yeah. And Shia LaBeouf is going to win the Academy Award for Indiana Jones 4.

Hey it's my pitch, so roll with it.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Friday, May 25, 2007


Yesterday afternoon, at around 3:30 p.m., L.A. County Fire Fighters received a call for help from a fellow County employee at Ken Malloy Park in Harbor City. In a small cove at the edge of Lake Machado, there he was.

Reggie the Alligator had been found!

With LA city officials already conveniently on hand at the park for a 3 p.m. "strategy reassessment meeting" regarding the celebrated gator, Jon Murki, chief of the city's Recreation and Parks Department, and City Councilwoman Janice Hahn were all smiles as the two year drama involving the park's most famous temporary resident came to a sudden, and well-publicized, ending.

"We were talking about strategies for catching him when somebody called and said, 'He's out of the lake'."

"It was an unbelievable day - and at the end of the day it was city of L.A. employees who caught him, not alligator wranglers from somewhere else," Hahn said. "Who said we don't do gators?"

But before Reggie could be strapped to a gurney and whisked away to the Los Angeles Zoo, with news vans and helicopters in tow, question were already being asked by some whether this really was, in fact, the Reggie.

The size of this alligator is somewhat larger than Reggie, and there would not have been enough time for Reggie to grow to that size," said Ed Boks, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services. When asked who might be skeptical about the alligator's identity, Boks answered, "A number of experts."

"Maybe instead of Reggie One, this is Reggie Two."

Boks' staff at Animal Services was not involved in the apprehension of the reptile.

Gregory Randall, a department wildlife specialist, offered this: "It's not like Reggie was tagged. There's no way to prove definitely that this is the same Reggie."

To quote one of those covering the story for television, Nischelle Turner of Fox 11 News, "Unless he was wearing a name tag that says, 'Hello, my name is Reggie', we'll never really know."

The question of the animal's identity was not in question for the sister of former L.A. Mayor Jim Hahn.

"He looks like Reggie to me," councilwoman Janice Hahn said. "We were petting him, talking to him... I feel like I know him because I've invested a lot of time and energy in him." Just two weeks ago, when asked if she could confirm the identity of the animal as Reggie, Hahn told the L.A. Daily News, "I don't know how we'll ever know."

No word on whether the councilwoman will be asked to confirm the creature's identity by picking Reggie out of a line-up at the L.A. Zoo.

As recently as last week, plans were still in the works to bring associates of the late Steve Irwin, the "Crocodile Hunter", to capture Reggie, after multiple attempts have failed to bring results during the last two years. The cost to the county is almost $200,000, not including the cost to prosecute the two men accused in 2005 of dumping Reggie in Lake Machado in the first place, former LAPD Officer Todd Natow and Anthony Brewer, both residents of nearby San Pedro.

Now, while in the middle of a meeting staged in the same park that Reggie has called home for two years, and with costs mounting by the day, the capture of "Reggie" had the feeling of something being staged.

It's curious how, just one day before a busy Memorial Day Weekend was to begin, the capture of "Reggie" went off without a hitch.

Kevin Regan, Assistant General Manager for the city's parks department, said he went to the lake last Sunday and devised a plan to trap the reptile.

"I went down there and found the area he was coming through," Regan said. "All of the vegetation was matted down, and I found this one pathway that it seemed like he was using."

Monday, Regan built a chain-link enclosure with a swinging door. On Thursday, that door was slammed shut with "Reggie" trapped inside.

Mission accomplished, right?

Parks Chief Murki put it this way: "We knew with the weather heating up.. that this could happen and, in fact, it happened real quick."

Real quick.

So with tongue loosely in-cheek, and with lawn chair opened on the shores of Lake Machado, I'll leave you with a quote by a city official from a classic film about civic responsibility, the public's right to know, and holiday fun in the sun.

"I'm pleased and happy to repeat the news that we have, in fact, caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers. But as you see, it's a beautiful day, the beaches are open, and people are having a wonderful time. 'Amity', as you know, means 'friendship'". - Mayor Harry Vaughn, Jaws.

And when the Fourth of July rolls around, remember...

I'm rooting for Reggie.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Spanning the Globe: All the News That...


Mrs. Tzipi Livni (that's right, Mrs.), Israeli foreign minister, is one step away from becoming only the second female Prime Minister in the country's history. Livni, 48, appears to be next in line for the job should current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resign.

On Wednesday, a poll of Israeli adults in the daily, Maariv, showed that 73 percent of those who responded believed that Olmert should step down.

Livni, who has two sons, ages 19 and 17, has risen relatively quickly to power - first within the Likud Party as a protege of Ariel Sharon, and currently in Kadima, the party set up by Sharon in the fall of 2005.

A former Mossad agent, Tzipi Livni held a classified post within Israeli intelligence, following her graduation from Bar-Ilan University school of law.

Though details of Livni's personal life have been kept just that, personal, it is believed that Livni's rise to the heights of power in the Knesset had nothing to do with a wealthy husband or a desire on her part to find a hobby after the kids were grown.


Eli Lilly and Co., manufacturer of Prozac, and Pfizer Inc., manufacturer of Zoloft, said they would comply with the FDA's request, and begin labelling the two anti-depressant products as a potential cause of suicidal tendencies in consumers age 18 to 24.

Antidepressants are already believed to cause increased risks for those under 18.

A statement issued by Eli Lilly read, "We believe this step will help insure that millions of people with depression... can make informed treatment decisions while minimizing the fear and stigma associated with depression."

Shreya Pudlo, a Pfizer spokesperson, took her statements in a different direction.

"There is no established causal link between Zoloft and suicide in adults, young adults or children."

According to Dr. Thomas Laughren, for every 1,000 patients 18 to 24 treated with antidepressants, the FDA expects that an additional five patients can expect to experience suicidal thoughts or suicidal behavior. According to Laughren, who oversees psychiatric drugs for the FDA, these studies were conducted with 11 different antidepressants on more than 77,000 patients.

According to the ads, depression hurts. And, apparently, anti-depression kills.

And in other chemical treatment news...


Britney Spears will perform the third in a series of "comeback" concerts tonight at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. Spears, who's last public concert appearance was nearly three years ago, kicked off her "comeback" Tuesday night with a fifteen minute show at the San Diego House of Blues. The following night, the 25-year-old Spears (Thank God she's no longer in that dangerous 18 to 24 demographic!) played the chain's Anaheim location.

The Tuesday gig was advertised as a show by "The M&M's". No indication was given whether the lap dance given to one of the San Diego patrons will be an ongoing feature of Spears' "comeback" tour.

Last stop...


An plain-clothed Manhattan Beach police officer was struck by a motorist as he observed the driving habits of parents at an elementary school in the city.

"We've seen motorists driving too fast, driving on the wrong side of the road at times," according to Manhattan Beach PD Lt. Derrick Abell. "One motorist drove on the wrong side of the road and hit one of our officers."

Other drivers were observed double-parking, leaving vehicles with the engine running for minutes at a time to pick up students, and even making, "offensive gestures to other more patient, law abiding drivers," Abell said.

"People are not paying attention to the rules of the road. The Manhattan Beach Police Department places a high priority on keeping our children safe."

The City of Manhattan Beach is one of the wealthiest cities in the state of California, with a 2006 average household income of just under $123,000.

In a related statistic, the city's schools rank 5th in state academic performance standards.

It's great to know the children of Manhattan Beach are just as driven as their parents.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Night Baseball: APRIL 22, 2022

Dateline: New York, NY

Alex Rodriguez, elected just this year to the Baseball Hall of Fame, responded to harsh criticism here in the Big Apple, and to the outpouring of celebration in the state of Florida, at the announcement that Rodriguez would, in fact, enter enshrinement as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray.

Rodriguez, in a press release issued yesterday, chose to ignore hateful comments of fans and media in the town where he rose to national prominence more than two decades ago with the New York Yankees.

Instead, he thanked the fans of western Florida.

"You always embraced me, accepted me," he said of the loyal fan base that averaged 16,000 per game during his six year stay in Tampa. "You never cared how I did in big games. For you, meaningless games in April were just as important to you as the post-season.

"No one [here] ever put pressure on me to perform. 2nd, 3rd, 4th place, it was all the same to you, and I'm grateful."

When asked about never appearing in a playoff or World Series with the team that paid him $37 million a year over the final five years of his career, Rodriguez responded saying, "It was the accepting attitude of [Devil Rays] fans that probably prolonged my career, allowing me to earn another $100 million. I owe them everything."

Later this year, Rodriguez will take part in a special old-timers' day in Tampa, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the D-Rays miracle 2nd place finish behind the Boston Red Sox in 2012. A team of former Tampa Bay players, including Rodriguez, will take on a team made up of other former big leaguers who never won a World Series.

Rodriguez is best remembered for breaking Barry Bonds' all-time record for home runs in a career, shattering the old mark of 761, clubbing 833 in a career that spanned 20 seasons.

In Los Angeles, Dodgers' Vice President of Community Relations, Nomar Garciaparra, when asked for a reaction to the Rodriguez situation, told, "I'm happy for him." When pressed further, the former Dodger and Red Sox all-star elaborated.

"Well, at least I won a World Series."

In the six years since Garciaparra became eligible for induction to Cooperstown, he has fallen short of the necessary 75 percent vote from Major League Baseball sportswriters each year. The Dodger executive was the First Baseman on the 2007 Dodgers championship club.

On a related note, Barry Bonds said yesterday that his testicular cancer remains in remission. Bonds credited experimental treatments he received from a clinic just outside the southern U.S./Mexico free border town of Tecate. Bonds sought treatment there for what was originally termed a "sports-related" illness.

In January of this year, Bonds, along with acting Baseball Commissioner Billy Crystal, created the Office of Latent Disabilities to deal with the swelling numbers of former Major Leaguers who have developed health problems in the years after retirement from the sport.

In 2009, Bonds was first diagnosed with subdural, meta-non-carcinoma, now known to be prevalent in users of various synthetic growth hormones, with symptoms typically manifesting in the form of enormous cranial growth.

Coincidentally, the sale of Bonds former team, the San Francisco Giants, is expected to be ratified by Baseball's owners this coming Friday. The sale, to Mexican multi- billionaire Carlos Slim is expected to precede the move of the Giants to Mexico City before the start of the 2023 season.

A slight change in the name of the team to "Los Gigantes de Ciudad de Mexico" are still unconfirmed.

When asked to comment on the team's move, Bonds said, "I never answered any of your f...... questions before, so why should I answer any of your f...... question now?"

Bonds, when asked about the drop in the percentage of African-American players to 1.8%, the lowest since Jackie Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, said, "Jackie who?". Baseball just celebrated the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's first game in the Major Leagues, breaking the color barrier.

Bonds spokesman Ed Attanasio was unavailable for comment.

Finally, National Public Radio President Ariel Vardi announced late Friday that NPR has secured the broadcast rights to all Los Gigantes de Ciudad de Mexico games beginning in 2023, and running through the 2050 season.

Carlos Slim signed the agreement in a meeting of The 100 Families, outside Mexico City, yesterday.

Slim's civic renewal program, "Traiga mi hogar de la gente" ("Bring my people home") has helped raise the minimum wage in Mexico to $12.49/hr U.S. Slim believes the Mexican economy will support a Major League team.

"The minimum wage in Mexico is three dollars higher than that of the U.S., so you tell me?"

Note: None of what you've just read is true, purports to be true, is intended to be taken as true, or will come true in this or any other lifetime, dimension or universe. All legal actions against Bill Friday,, or Nomar Garciaparra, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ed Attanasio, NPR, all persons living, dead or undead, or anyone else in all creation are groundless insofar as, if you sue, you will prove you have no sense of humor.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Hills Are On Fire - Hollywood Sign In Jeopardy

At just after 1pm today, a fire ignited in the hills above Burbank, threatening the famed Hollywood sign, the Los Angeles landmark since the 1920's. The sign, visible from all parts of the L.A. basin sits at the top of Mt. Lee, in the Hollywood Hills.

By 2pm Los Angeles County arson investigators were seen questioning a maintenance worker from the Oakwood Apartments on Barham Blvd. regarding the origin of the fire. According to witnesses at the Oakwood, maintenance workers at the apartment were seen attempting to extinguish a small fire in the north parking lot of the large complex.

Estimates of the size of the area involved in the fire, as of 2:30pm, were between 50 and 100 acres.

Temperatures in the Burbank area today reached the low 80's with humidity levels below 15 percent. An afternoon onshore weather flow was hoped to bring relief to fire crews in the hills, as the flow typically brings heavy, moist air in from the Pacific Ocean most afternoons.

Travis Caldwell, a resident of the Oakwood Apartments and a witness to the initial attempts of Oakwood maintenance workers to put out the fire, said that two minors were involved in the discharging of fireworks in near-proximity to the north parking lot of the apartments.

At the time of this writing, Sheriff's investigators were seen questioning these two possible persons of interest.

No names of any who might have been involved have been released as yet.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

With This Muse, You Lose

Writers are freaks.

Capable of reaching deep into the creative void, searching for light, and, as if from nowhere they, seemingly, can pull entire worlds out whole.

And sometimes in their search they, along with the worlds they've drawn from the darkness, bring back the very darkness itself.

And sometimes, writers are bullies.

A few days ago, I got an email from another writer inside the Los Angeles Edition. In the note were concerns about criticisms expressed in the comments section at the end of our articles for BrooWaha.

One thought in particular stood out,

"I appreciate the fact that people can give feedback and constructive criticism, but I don't think it should be condescending and pointlessly mean." (emphasis mine).

After a few words from me (which I'm sure didn't help), I got to thinking about these two sides of the writer, and about the fragile nature of each. Because even the schoolyard bully is just one good ass-beating away from having to embrace his own inner freak.

What is it about staring deep into that empty, dark place where ideas take shape and then draw breath, that brings out the best, and worst, in the writer? I thought a little more, and my thoughts turned, well... dark.

Really dark.

In the film Wonder Boys, James, the budding, brilliant writer (played by Tobey Maguire), recites a list of celebrity suicides he's memorized, in alphabetical order no less. At a very young age, James is a freak who gets it. He already sees what comes with the literary territory. It's morbid. Funny morbid. But when the lights come up again in the theater, James is just a character in a movie. He isn't real. Movies aren't real.

Real is what happens between kids (the freaks and the bullies) on any playground, any day, between lunch and the 5th period bell. Real is what happens in the comments section at the end of the articles in BrooWaha, where the writer plays critic, and the rules of the playground still apply.

Writers search for light in the darkness of their own soul. And when that light can't be found, other writers write about it.

Literary history is the story of writers - freaks - so damaged from staring into the black hole of their own inspiration, that they can no longer cope with what's real.

The world loves a winner, and everyone loves a story about a thick-skinned writer. But in a world that's real, thick skin is just a cover for the freak that lives inside. And only in a business where the workers must daily look into the void of darkness in their own souls, is insanity accepted as an occupational hazard.


"Paint me an angel, with wings, and a trumpet, to trumpet my name over the world." - Thomas Chatterton.

Thomas Chatterton was real.

Born in England in 1752, Thomas Chatterton was a freak. Withdrawn as a young child, some thought he might even be mentally handicapped. Before the age of six, Thomas lived as a recluse in the home of his parents, sitting alone for hours and, at times, crying without a reason. When not staring into space or crying, he would tell family members of his desire to be famous.

By age eight, if given the chance, he would read and write all day. By age eleven, he was a published author.

However, during the next six years, Chatterton, while writing for various journals in England, also perpetrated an elaborate and ill-conceived series of "forgeries". He claimed the documents were original poems by the 15th century writer Thomas Rowley.

They were original poems, alright. Originally written by Chatterton on two-hundred-year-old parchment scraps he had taken from a chest inside his local parish church.

After the fall-out over the Rowley poems, Chatterton began writing political satire under various pen names, selling little and sinking deeper into depression. Finally, in 1770, at the age of seventeen, Thomas Chatterton wrote a rambling "Last Will and Testament" and moved on to the big city - London.

Two months later, unemployed, hungry and disgraced, Chatterton tore up any writings he had in his possession, drank arsenic, and died.

"Dance no more at holiday, like a running river be; My love is dead, gone to his death bed, all under the willow tree." - TC.


"I must now prove that I even exist." - Jerzy Kosinski.

Jerzy Kosinski was real.

An acclaimed author, Kosinski, was the survivor of a childhood spent hiding his Jewish identity from the Nazis who occupied his native Poland during World War II. As an adult, this period of his life was recounted in the 1965 novel The Painted Bird. Though Kosinski never claimed the book was a "biography" as such, he did say that the story was both a representation of his life at the time, as well as a retelling of a Polish folk tale about the dangers of non-conformity. Later in his career, Kosinski also wrote the 1972 novel Being There, and co-authored the screenplay for the 1979 film version starring Peter Sellers.

However, as early as 1969, with the publishing of the book Steps, whispers within the writing community began to be heard about possible plagiarism in the stories of Kosinski. Over the next dozen years, countless accusations, newspaper articles and broadcast stories pointed to the same thing.

Finally, in early May, 1991, ostracized by the literary world that had made him famous, Jerzy Kosinski, 58, committed suicide in his New York apartment.

"I need an internal light, as not to fall prey to the things which cause my spirits to sag. This is true water from the heavens." - JK.


"That's nice talk, Ben - keep drinking. Between the 101-proof breath and the occasional bits of drool, some interesting words come out." - Sera to Ben in Leaving Las Vegas, from the novel by John O'Brien.

John O'Brien was real.

A Midwestern kid from a stable, two-parent home, John O'Brien was married just a year after graduating high school. Three years later John, and his wife Lisa, moved to Los Angeles. During the next few years, John wrote and worked various jobs around L.A.

According to his sister Erin, John became a heavy drinker in his mid-twenties when, she said, "John's drinking problem started as soon as he started drinking. By the time he was 20, he was taking a clandestine flask to work. By the time he was 26, he was chugging vodka directly from the bottle at morning's first light in order to stave off the shakes. I know. I saw him do it."

By 1990, O'Brien's first novel, Leaving Las Vegas, was published. The next four years saw O'Brien complete just one more work, Stripper Lessons, and begin one other, The Assault on Tony's.

In 1994, in the wake of the controversy surrounding the true origin of the Sheryl Crow song Leaving Las Vegas (a song Crow co-wrote with O'Brien's friend, David Baerwald), O'Brien sank to the deepest depths of alcoholic depression.

On March 21, 1994 Crow appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, performing the song and answering questions about it's origin. During the course of the interview, Crow took biographical credit for the lyrics.

A week after the Crow appearance, production began on the movie version of LLV, starring Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue. Two weeks later, on April 10th, O'Brien was still upset about the Crow interview, complaining to his literary agent in a phone conversation.

Later that day, John O'Brien put a shot gun to his head and killed himself.

Later, his father said that the novel, Leaving Las Vegas, was John's suicide note.

The final paragraph of John O'Brien's unfinished manuscript of The Assault on Tony's, summed up his life.

"For the first time in his life Rudd found himself wishing for death, hoping (praying?) that the walls came down before the liquor ran out, that they were stormed, bombed or shot in some truculent surprise attack, some irresistible force, divine intervention." - J.O.

Writers are freaks.

And if you're reading this, you're probably a writer.


Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Once Upon a Time in Norte America: The Rise of Carlos Slim

"You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask of that old Lone Ranger and you don't mess around with Slim." - Jim Croce.

1902. A young man flees persecution in his home country and travels half way around the world to find a new home and a new way of life. How many times have we heard that one? But what if the young man was born in Lebanon? And what if the country he emigrated to wasn't the U.S., but Mexico?

Here begins the story of Carlos Slim.

Carlos Slim is the son of Julian Slim (Yusef Salim) Haddad, a Lebanese Christian (non-Muslim) who left his own country for a better (read: longer) life at the southern end of North America. Through hard work and shrewd investments - yes, Mexican investments - buying land in downtown Mexico City following the revolution of 1910, the elder Slim became a successful businessman.

And the son picked up right where his late father left off.

By the age of 26, Carlos Slim had an accumulated wealth of $400,000. He had married the future mother of his six children. Armed only with a degree in civil engineering and a big pile of money (Mexico in 1936 money), he began buying things. Lots of things. Businesses.

Skip ahead forty years.

Carlos Slim is rich.

Sorry, I may have understated that a bit. Carlos Slim is RICH!. Ridiculously, excessively, non-stop, stinking, light your cigars with million dollar bills RICH! So rich, that his cumulative wealth is estimated somewhere between thirty billion (Forbes) to FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS (Reuters; Fortune). So rich, that in 2006, he saw his wealth increase $2.2 million per hour (Belfast Telegraph).

Although the majority of his money has come from the telecommunications industry, Slim's holdings also include five insurance companies (valued at $1.5 billion), a Mexican retail chain (pretax annual profit, $500 million), a mining company, an auto parts manufacturing company, a bank, a tobacco company, oh, and another mining company. All told, Slim's companies account for almost one-half of the value of the Mexican stock exchange.

And before you think Carlos Slim's empire stops at the Mexican border, south-of-which 4 out of every 5 cell lines and 9 out of every 10 land lines are owned and operated by him, think again. Have you ever bought anything at Comp USA? The computer you're reading this article on, maybe? You just added to the man's not-so-slim portfolio. Designer purses? How about Saks Fifth Avenue where the slim pickins aren't so slim? Cha-ching! He owns them both. In the time it took you to read this paragraph, Carlos Slim just made $18,000.

Now before you jump from your Comp USA computer chair and shout, "Bastardo Codicioso!" (that's "Greedy Bastard!" en Español), hear what else this man, who one day soon will be the richest in the world, has done. In 2006, from endowments to and through his foundations, Carlos Slim donated $1.8 billion to charitable cause including giving away 95,000 bicycles to children of poor families to ride to their schools, 70,000 pairs of eyeglasses, and scholarships to 150,000 university students.

Similar donations over the last ten years start to read like a box score. They include 66 million bikes and 10 million pairs of contact lenses.

He even donated thousands of laptop computers to students, thus providing them access to the Internet. As early as next week, Carlos Slim plans to announce a new plan to donate upwards of 10 billion more dollars over the next four years to help fund Mexican health and education programs.

Add to it the fact that Slim's companies also employ 250,000 Mexicans.

So how come a large segment of his own people don't trust him?

Remember the laptops? When the students accessed the Internet, whose ISP did they use?

Do you own a PC or a Mac? If you own a Mac, do you trust Bill Gates? The very fact that you can own a Mac allows you to rest a little easier even while knowing that Bill Gates is the richest man in the world. Do you like Coke? No? Well then, at least there's Pepsi.

If you're a Mexican citizen, Carlos Slim is Microsoft, Apple, Coke, Pepsi and GM all rolled into one. In spite of all of Slim's charitable contributions, Mexico's working class just doesn't trust him.

In the last year, this distrust took the form of satire. A cartoon of Slim, depicted as a boxer lying flat on his back in the ring as he crushes a tiny opponent appeared in the Mexican newspaper La Reforma. In the drawing, telephone lines make up the ropes around the ring. Beneath the cartoon a caption reads, "Billion Dollar Baby".

Around the same time, in a segment on the Mexican TV show, "La Verdad Sea Dicha" ("The Truth Be Told"), a mocking news anchor shoves a pie into the mouth of a papier maché effigy of Slim.

But this attitude is also found in the academic community, where many find the practice of making giant public donations a questionable cover for something else. One professor, Denise Dresser of the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, points out, "In Mexico, the perception is that public deeds are done for personal gain." In another interview Dresser adds that "a growing public consensus that Slim's attempts to block competition are hurting the Mexican economy." She goes on to say, "He wants to ward off those criticisms."

Dresser is not alone.

George Grayson is an expert on the subject of Latin American politics. For the last 38 years he's been a faculty member of The College of William and Mary. When interviewed by the L.A. Times on the subject of Mexico's lack of economic competition, Grayson said, "It is still full of public and private monopolies and bottlenecks."

In a country where the power of wealth is controlled by a relatively few tight-nit grupos, all of which together are known as "The 100 Families", the largest monopoly by far is controlled by Carlos Slim.

Once more from Dresser. "Mexico has a dense, intricate web of connections between the government and the business class. This ends up creating a government that doesn't defend the public interest... It is rather willing to help its friends, its allies and, in some cases, its business partners thrive at the expense of the Mexican people."

So, what of the monopoly created by Carlos Slim? If Slim has done this much for his own people, whether some trust him or not, shouldn't we rise from our Comp USA computer chairs and applaud?

Economists say that Mexico actually loses money due to the monopolies controlled by Slim and The 100 Families, causing Mexico's per capita income to fall to less than $7,000, leaving the country in poverty. Ask the 10 percent of the Mexican population that currently lives in the United States why they left home. And why, by working for the decidedly low wages generally available to "illegals" in this country, remittances sent back to Mexico by these workers totaled a record $20 billion in 2005.

So what will it take to, once and for all, bring Mexico to a place where its own citizens will want to return? Slim himself defines his own role in the process.

"My new job," says Carlos Slim, "is to focus on the development and employment of Latin America."

If he means employ at a working wage commensurate with the rest of Norte America, he doesn't say.

So what more will it take for Slim and, for that matter, the rest of the wealthiest of Mexico's power brokers to satisfy the skepticism of the Mexican working class that distrusts him so much?

Denise Dresser calls it a wish list. One that, "every Mexican committed to his country would ask from Santa Claus." And that is?

"The day that you (Slim) give 80 percent of your personal fortune to an unselfish cause is the day that I will become your champion."

Oh. Is that all.

Early next week, Carlos Slim plans to unveil another expansion of his vast charitable, educational and business infrastructural plan to the world.

Will it satisfy his biggest critics?

I guess we'll see it in the funny pages.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday